Czech Open Information Project


THE CHARLES BRIDGE


As early as 1170 the Vltava was spanned by a bridge known as the Judith Bridge, of which one arch and a pillar with the so-called Bradac sculpture survive at the Old Town end (underneath the Crusaders' Monastery) while at the Mala Strana end the south tower of the bridge gate bears a relief of a scene relating probably to the granting of royal status to Vladislav I of Bohemia, an event which took place in 1158. This older bridge, destroyed by flooding in 1342, was replaced by a new one by Charles IV in 1357. The sixteen-arched structure was entrusted to the builders of the Saint Vitus Cathedral under the direction of Peter Parler and it was completed within the lifetime of its royal founder. In the last quarter of the l4th c. a gate tower was raised on the Old Town side with sculptured decoration celebrating the building work undertaken by Charles IV and his son Vaclav IV. The northern tower on the Mala Strana side dates from after 1464. This new bridge, at first called the "Stone Bridge" or the "Prague Bridge", acquired its characteristic appearance in the baroque period, when the world-renowned procession of thirty statues and sculptured ensembles arose along its length between 1683 and 1720. The foremost Czech baroque sculptors were engaged. Ferdinand M. Brokof, Matyas B. Braun, Matej V. JĄckel, Jan O. Mayer and others. The most important of these works are Braun's St. Luitgard and Brokof's group of St. John of Mathy and Felix de Valois with the figure of the "Prague Turk". The donors of these sculptures were mostly church institutions, the university and also private individuals. The great flood of 1890 destroyed some of the arches and some damaged statues had to be replaced by copies. The most recent sculptural work on the bridge is that portraying Saints Cyril and Methodius which Karel Dvorak executed in 1928. In the course of its over-eight-hundred-year history the bridge has witnessed many memorable events, for example the plunging of St. Jan Nepomucky into the waters of the Vltava, the Swedish army's attempted assault of the Old Town in 1648, the revolutionary outburst of 1848.